LHS belt

Laurel's Charles Cross, left, a Florida State recruit, and Levi Walker hold up the Leader-Call's Battle for the Belt championship belt Friday night. (Photo by Guru Nichols)

It’s so lonely in Region 3-5A for the Free State trio.

Reclassification will add another Jackson team to the roster of local opponents and take away North Pike — but that does little to alleviate the travel woes Laurel, West Jones and South Jones will be facing.

Region 5 has the Free State trio and then Brookhaven (84 miles from Laurel), Natchez (145  miles from Laurel), and Jackson schools Wingfield, Jim Hill and Forest Hill (about 90 miles each away from Laurel).

The travel will be a concern, but the competition level for the locals certainly will not improve. Natchez is perennially loaded with physical ability, but cannot transform that into victories. Ole Brook has a strong football tradition, but is losing much of its playoff team from this year. And the Jackson three are rarely if ever competitors outside of the basketball gyms.

Every two years, the Mississippi High School Activities Association reclassifies schools by school population. The state is broken into six classes, with 1A being the smallest and 6A the largest.  Of the local three who play in Class 5A, West Jones is the largest of the bunch with a reported 906 students, good for No. 14 in the 32-team Class 5A. South Jones is No. 28 and Laurel is No. 29.

Look for all three Free State teams to have banner football seasons next year, at least in region play, even if the gasoline bills for the buses go through the roof.

In Class 4A, Northeast Jones came in as the fourth-largest team in the classification after being the largest 4A school during the last two years of classifications.

There was a chance Northeast might be elevated to Class 5A, but fell 24 students short of that elevation. Had the Tigers moved to 5A, it would have put all four Free State teams in the same region — something fans would have fomented over.

In football, though, the Tigers will get a break as perennial power West Lauderdale is no longer in the region. Florence and Richland — both Jackson suburbs — were added when West Lauderdale and Northeast Lauderdale were removed.

Stringer remains in Region 4-1A and will be joined by newcomers Leake County, Richton and Sebastapol, while East Marion was moved out of the region.

Bay Springs, Heidelberg and Taylorsville will still compete in Region 5-2A, along with Mize and Puckett, while Clarkdale was moved out.

Other sports saw some changes, most notably in Region 5-5A basketball, where Wayne County moved out and Brookhaven moved in with the three Free State teams.

The baseball regions went unchanged.

Class 1A

No. of schools: 46

Largest: Baldwyn 

(Enrollment: 200)

Smallest: MS School for Deaf 

(Enrollment: 53)

Stringer is 10th, with 

enrollment of 185

Region 4

Leake County

Lumberton

Mount Olive

Resurrection

Richton

Sacred Heart

Salem 

Sebastopol 

Stringer 

Adds: Leake County, Richton, Sebastopol

Takes out: East Marion

Class 2A

No. of schools: 45

Largest: Wesson 

(Enrollment: 279)

Smallest Potts Camp 

(Enrollment: 202)

Heidelberg is 23rd, 

with enrollment of 244

Bay Springs is 29th, 

with enrollment of 234

Taylorsville is 41st, 

with enrollment of 214

Region 5

Bay Springs 

Enterprise 

Heidelberg 

Mize

Puckett 

Taylorsville

Adds: Mize, Puckett

Takes out: Clarkdale

Class 4A

No. of schools: 45

Largest: Vancleave 

(Enrollment: 723)

Smallest: Rosa Fort 

(Enrollment: 475)

NE Jones is fifth, 

with enrollment of 700

Region 5

Florence 

Mendenhall

Newton County

Northeast Jones 

Quitman High 

Richland

Adds: Florence, Richland

Takes out: West Lauderdale, 

NE Lauderdale

Class 5A

No. of schools: 32

Largest: Pascagoula (1,038)

Smallest: East Central (734)

West Jones is 14th, with 906

Wayne County is 20th, with 876

South Jones is 28th, with 794

Laurel is 29th, with 779

Region 5

Brookhaven 

Forest Hill

Jim Hill

Laurel

Natchez

South Jones

West Jones

Wingfield

Adds: Jim Hill

Takes out: North Pike

Region 4

East Central 

Gautier 

Hattiesburg

Long Beach

Pascagoula

Pearl River Central 

Picayune

Wayne County

Adds: Pascagoula

Takes out: West Harrison

Soccer

5-4A

Florence

Mendenhall

Northeast Jones

Quitman

Richland

Adds: Florence, Mendenhall, Richland

Takes out: Newton County, NE Lauderdale, West Lauderdale

5-5A

Laurel

South Jones 

Wayne County

West Jones

(No changes)

Basketball

7-1A

Leake County 

Mount Olive 

Piney Woods

Sebastopol 

Stringer 

Takes out: Miss. School for the Deaf

5-2A

Bay Springs

Enterprise

Heidelberg

Mize 

Puckett 

Taylorsville 

Adds: Mize, Puckett

Takes out: Clarkdale

5-4A

Florence

Mendenhall 

Newton County

Northeast Jones

Quitman 

Richland 

Adds: Florence, Richland

Takes out: NE Lauderdale, West Lauderdale

5-5A

Brookhaven

Laurel

South Jones

West Jones

Adds: Brookhaven

Takes out: Wayne County

8-5A

East Central

Gautier High

Pascagoula

Wayne County

Baseball

7-1A

Stringer

Sebastopol

Mount Olive

Leake County

(No changes)

5-2A

Taylorsville

Bay Springs

Heidelberg

Clarkdale

Enterprise

(No changes)

5-4A

NE Jones

West Lauderdale

Mendenhall

Newton County

NE Lauderdale

Quitman

(No changes)

5-5A

West Jones

South Jones

Wayne County

Laurel

(No changes)

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.